Vintage clothing shop is perfect fit for Sheffield entrepreneur Jojo
To some they are just old clothes - and second-hand to boot.
But to a growing number, ‘vintage’ is a thrilling combination of history, fashion, solid construction, unusual materials and most importantly - rarity.
Throw in a growing dislike of the throwaway ‘fast fashion’ that’s eating the planet and the rise of this niche sector is better understood.
And it explains the success of Jojo’s General Store, which is coming up to its third year on Ecclesall Road. The strip is a notorious graveyard for shops that open and swiftly close due to factors including high business rates, rent and, increasingly, online sales.
But key to it all is Joseph, ‘Jojo’ Elgarice, aged 27, a self-confessed vintage geek who has built a business based on a knowledge of historic clothing, a network of sources and bags of energy and enthusiasm.
It’s not uncommon for him to be up at 4am to visit a military or vintage fair to buy stock, before being back to open up at 11am.
Jojo, whose mum is an antique dealer, said he started out selling T-shirts in the Forum while working as a chef. Gradually a hobby turned into an obsession - and then a living.
He said: “I trained as a chef but stopped enjoying it. Through selling I’d meet people from London and Japan and I thought I’d make a go of it.
“I think if people open a shop and don’t have a strong vision they’ll struggle. You have to put a lot into it, finding new products, promoting them and running the shop. You have to squeeze it all in, it’s pretty much non-stop, 365 days.”
He took over what had been a bridal store - the white was swiftly painted over - and today it is an Aladdin’s Cave of clothes from the 1880s to the 1990s.
Jojo displays a 1930s Belstaff Senior TT competition coat in black rubberised canvas. The famous firm only started in 1924. There’s the 1930s US Grizzly leather and wool jacket imported and sold by Simpsons in London in the 1930s, according to a label inside.
This alpaca-lined canvas US Navy World War Two ‘deck jacket’ was a favourite of James Dean and Steve McQueen. And that black wool and fur-lined Chesterfield coat is from the 1910s.
But it’s not all antique, customer Andy Tupholme has come in for the 1980s Levis Jumbo cords with the label still attached.
The massive range has attracted celebrities and stars who want something unique, including cyclist Victoria Pendleton who bought a 1950s mountaineering smock ahead of her attempt on Everest with adventurer Ben Fogle. Arctic Monkeys bassist Nick O’Malley’s girlfriend bought him a 1970s checked ‘leisurewear suit’ and bands including Blossoms from Manchester and The Twang from Birmingham are customers. Jojo says.
But such is the wealth of stock he’s also been contacted by organisers of a fashion exhibition in London, clothing designers who want to pore over old items for inspiration and even the makers of the clothes themselves. Some have an archive of products which is missing items. Jojo has sold jackets back to British brands including Barbour and Grenfell, he says.
And then there are the Japanese, only this week, Jojo had three visits from buyers scouring the country for unique threads to take home.
In the future, Jojo says he might use his knowledge to create his own brand.
He added: “I think there’s scope to branch out further.”
IF THE JACKET FITS WEAR IT – OR STORE IT WITH ALL THE OTHERS
How much of a vintage geek is Jojo Elgarice?
Try a collection of 400 jackets on for size. So many they won’t fit in his home and he’s got a storage unit separate from the shop.
And he still dreams of items he wishes he’d never sold.
“Sometimes you wait up to five years for a good jacket. There’s stuff I’ve regretted selling, although they helped make my reputation. I’ve got a big collection but there’s always something else.
“I had one customer tell me his wife had demanded to know why he had 400 scarves when he only had one neck.”